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Manchin pushing on with gun background check legislation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Wednesday he's pushing forward on legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers, saying he believes the facts and common sense ultimately will prevail.

"We are not giving up," Manchin said.

Legislation he co-sponsored with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., fell six votes short of the 60 needed for passage three weeks ago, although a no vote by Majority Leader Harry Reid was procedural, so that the bill could be reconsidered.

Manchin told Gazette editors Wednesday he is confident that once the bill is tweaked to resolve concerns of some senators, and once false information about the bill is refuted, the bill will pass the Senate.

He said some senators wanted clarification that gun transactions among family members do not require background checks, to clarify procedures for Internet gun sales, and to assure immunity from prosecution for licensed gun dealers who conduct background checks for other vendors at gun shows.

"I'm hoping that's six or seven votes right there," Manchin said of the tweaks to the bill.

"If the facts come out, and you still can't change your mind, you should question why you're there," he said of persuading senators to change their votes in favor of the bill.

A lifelong National Rifle Association member, Manchin said he was taken aback by misinformation the NRA spread about the bill, and by a last-minute decision to "score" the vote, meaning that yes votes would hurt members' NRA ratings.

"They came down and started saying things I know they know weren't in there," he said of NRA attacks of the bill.

Manchin said NRA claims that the bill would lead to a national gun registry or to the federal government confiscating guns are a "farce." He said misstatements about the bill cover the gamut from the erroneous to "bald-faced lies."

Opinion polls show overwhelming public support for the expanded background checks, Manchin said.

"Easily, 90 percent of law-abiding gun owners are all right with that," he said.

"The overwhelming majority of people said it's common sense, there's nothing wrong with that," Manchin added.

Manchin conceded that congressional procedures can be frustrating, particularly compared to the state Legislature, where it is much easier to build consensus on issues.

"The system wasn't built to protect the members," he commented.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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